To begin, please know that the examples given here, and in the previous article on this blog entitled "How to Make Big Problems Out of Little Ones," are real events that have taken place very recently.
The story continues-
The trim for a large order in China, made for a huge customer in US, is delivered to factory in China. The players: The company’s Hong Kong office, the Hong Kong-based manufacturer of the trims, and the factory itself. About two weeks later, when packing is started, it is discovered that some portion of the trims are defective. Now, the factory needs to go through all the trims and make sure to cull out the defective ones. It is unknown how many are defective and if there will be enough good ones to complete packing.
How could this have been avoided?
1. The factory should have checked the trims when received, not when packing is started.
2. The company’s Hong Kong office, who ordered the trims, should have checked by, say, having a random carton shipped to their office.
3. The factory that produced the trims should have their own QC to check before shipping.
Three chances to check and none taken. If even one of three was done, the chances of the current problem could have been minimized or even avoided.
Another example is that of printed ties which are found at the final inspection (by the customer) to have some prints out of registration. Think about that…if someone checked the printed fabric carefully, either at the printer or the tie factory when received, the cost of this problem would have been greatly minimized as opposed to discovering it when the ties are manufactured and packed.
So again, a small problem or one for which damage control could have been done earlier, becomes a big problem. Why does this happen and how could it be avoided?
1. The obvious is that factories and suppliers, while constantly under pressure for delivery, must take the time to do proper quality control, or it will cost them more time later.
2. Factories must institute a process by process quality control to prevent small problems from becoming big ones later. For example, a socks factory is found to have some items which must be rejected at final inspection, after having been finished and packed, due to knitting problems. Think about how much money is thrown away by spending all the labour cost to put a product which is defective at the first process through the rest of the processes; worse, what will be the cost of replacing the parts and labor of the defective ones?
3. In the apparel industry, there is a bad paradigm for quality control. It is called AQL. AQL is a US military-originated system which checks final production for pass or fail based on a number sampling scheme. This just doesn’t work anymore. Process control is needed, then final inspection should be a formality.
4. Factories in China and other countries must change their mentality and their quality standard from doing what they perceive they need to do to get an order shipped to doing the right thing.
Factories are generally very shortsighted-reluctant or unwilling to change anything that might cost them money-even if the change will actually save them money and improve their quality performance. They need their customers to convince them to embrace a new quality paradigm-process by process control. Once they see the result, they will understand.
Oh, and everybody in the supply chain must be compelled to do their job-not just the final producer.